Massage therapy can work for back pain

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Millions of South Africans are all too familiar with backache – countless trips to the doctor or chiropractor, endless pain medications, sleepless nights and the struggle of getting through the day.

The answer may lie in massage therapy.

Clinical research has shown that massage therapy can be more effective for chronic back pain than other complementary therapies; it can reduce post-traumatic headaches better than cold-pack treatments; it stimulates the brain to produce endorphins; and improves confidence by encouraging patients to effectively cope with their pain, according to the American Massage Therapy Association.

The association offers these tips on what to expect when you go for massage therapy:

  • The massage therapist will ask questions about what prompted you to get a massage.
  • The therapist will want background information about your physical condition, medical history, lifestyle, stress levels and any painful areas.
  • The therapist will ask what your health goals are and will discuss how massage may help you achieve those goals.
  • During a one-on-one massage, you will be asked to remove clothing to your level of comfort. Clothing is not removed during "chair" massages.

Reviewed by Dr Pradeep Makan, orthopaedic surgeon, Melomed Gatesville and Life Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Cape Town and part-time lecturer in the department of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Cape Town, 2010.

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